Friday, July 01, 2005

What is Intelligent Design?

Seems like we should probably start out by defining exactly what Intelligent Design is. According to William Dembski (perhaps the world’s leading scholar in the field of Intelligent Design), Intelligent Design is the name given to a theory of science that states “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.” (William Dembski’s The Design Revolution, page 27).

Now Intelligent Design uses several factors including specified complexity (independent improbable patterns [more on this later]) and irreducible complexity (organisms that cannot be broken down into smaller functioning organisms like some kinds of bacteria) as proof of its existence.

But it is important to define what we mean by the word “intelligent.” According to the book Signs of Intelligence (by Dembski and Kushiner), the intelligent design community understands “intelligent” to refer to “an intelligent agency, irrespective of skill or mastery.”

Confused yet? I hope not, but I had to get that out of the way to set up our foundation.

Intelligent Design is the antithesis of Darwinism. Darwinism, also known as Naturalism, states that the natural world is all there is. It believes the world is exclusively explained in natural terms. Darwinism states that factors such as natural selection and random variation account for life on the planet. When a naturalist (it should be noted that naturalist and Darwinist are interchangeable for this series of posts) talks about science, he will speak from the perspective that the natural world is all there is.

This perspective is contrary to one who subscribes to Intelligent Design. A supporter of Intelligent Design would feel that the results of an intelligent agency can be detected empirically and that the natural world bears evidence of intelligent agency. They would also likely say that naturalism is not only bad philosophy but bad science (we’ll look at this more in depth later).

When dealing with Intelligent Design there are two important facts to keep in mind. First, Intelligent Design is not creationism. I will go into more details later but let me state that Intelligent Design does not account for who designed the world, only that it was designed. In other words, Intelligent Design does not require a belief in God.

Secondly, from a Christian perspective, it is important to remember that Intelligent Design is not an apologetic. Although it does have implications for use in apologetics, it is more pre-evangelistic in nature. (Kind of hard to use it to defend God’s existence if it doesn’t require God’s existence eh?)

Okay, I think that’s good enough for a brief introduction to our topic. I think that this post will be the most complicated of all of them because it sets the foundation. I would recommend re-reading it a few times if you are still confused.

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